The Waif of the "Cynthia" by André Laurie and Jules Verne


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Page 1

Formerly this oil was made by the fishermen, but now the process is a
more scientific one, and the prince of this special industry is the
celebrated Dr. Schwaryencrona.

There is no one who has not seen his pointed beard, his spectacles, his
hooked nose, and his cap of otter skin. The engraving, perhaps, is not
very fine, but it is certainly a striking likeness. A proof of this is
what happened one day in a primary school in Noroe, on the western coast
of Norway, a few leagues from Bergen.

Two o'clock had struck. The pupils were in their classes in the large,
sanded hall--the girls on the left and the boys on the right--occupied
in following the demonstration which their teacher, Mr. Malarius, was
making on the black-board. Suddenly the door opened, and a fur coat, fur
boots, fur gloves, and a cap of otter, made their appearance on the
threshold.

The pupils immediately rose respectfully, as is usual when a stranger
visits the class-room. None of them had ever seen the new arrival
before, but they all whispered when they saw him, "Doctor
Schwaryencrona," so much did the picture engraved on the bottles
resemble the doctor.

We must say that the pupils of Mr. Malarius had the bottles continually
before their eyes, for one of the principal manufactories of the doctor
was at Noroe. But for many years the learned man had not visited that
place, and none of the children consequently could have beheld him in
the flesh. In imagination it was another matter, for they often spoke of
him in Noroe, and his ears must have often tingled, if the popular
belief has any foundation. Be this as it may, his recognition was
unanimous, and a triumph for the unknown artist who had drawn his
portrait--a triumph of which this modest artist might justly be proud,
and of which more than one photographer in the world might well be
jealous.

But what astonished and disappointed the pupils a little was to discover
that the doctor was a man below the ordinary height, and not the giant
which they had imagined him to be. How could such an illustrious man be
satisfied with a height of only five feet three inches? His gray head
hardly reached the shoulder of Mr. Malarius, and he was already stooping
with age. He was also much thinner than the doctor, which made him
appear twice as tall. His large brown overcoat, to which long use had
given a greenish tint, hung loosely around him; he wore short breeches
and shoes with buckles, and from beneath his black silk cap a few gray
locks had made their escape. His rosy cheeks and smiling countenance
gave an expression of great sweetness to his face. He also wore
spectacles, through which he did not cast piercing glances like the
doctor, but through them his blue eyes shone with inexhaustible
benevolence.

In the memory of his pupils Mr. Malarius had never punished a scholar.
But, nevertheless, they all respected him, and loved him. He had a brave
soul, and all the world knew it very well. They were not ignorant of the
fact that in his youth he had passed brilliant examinations, and that he
had been offered a professorship in a great university, where he might
have attained to honor and wealth. But he had a sister, poor Kristina,
who was always ill and suffering. She would not have left her native
village for the world, for she felt sure that she would die if they
removed to the city. So Mr. Malarius had submitted gently to her wishes,
and sacrificed his own prospects. He had accepted the humble duty of the
village school-master, and when twenty years afterward Kristina had
died, blessing him, he had become accustomed to his obscure and retired
life, and did not care to change it. He was absorbed in his work, and
forgot the world. He found a supreme pleasure in becoming a model
instructor, and in having the best-conducted school in his country.
Above all, he liked to instruct his best pupils in the higher branches,
to initiate them into scientific studies, and in ancient and modern
literature, and give them the information which is usually the portion
of the higher classes, and not bestowed upon the children of fishermen
and peasants.

"What is good for one class, is good for the other," he argued. "If the
poor have not as many comforts, that is no reason why they should be
denied an acquaintance with Homer and Shakespeare; the names of the
stars which guide them across the ocean, or of the plants which grow on
the earth. They will soon see them laid low by their ploughs, but in
their infancy at least they will have drunk from pure sources, and
participated in the common patrimony of mankind." In more than one
country this system would have been thought imprudent, and calculated to
disgust the lowly with their humble lot in life, and lead them to wander
away in search of adventures. But in Norway nobody thinks of these
things. The patriarchal sweetness of their dispositions, the distance
between the villages, and the laborious habits of the people, seem to
remove all danger of this kind. This higher instruction is more frequent
than a stranger would believe to be possible. Nowhere is education more
generally diffused, and nowhere is it carried so high; as well in the
poorest rural schools, as in the colleges.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Sun 15th Sep 2019, 16:35